June 25, 2020

Shabbat 90

In today’s daf (Shabbat 90b) reference is made to locusts and how carrying a locust in a public domain contravenes the laws against carrying on Shabbat. At the same time, we are also told that – at least in the time of the Mishna – children enjoyed playing with live locusts, that some families kept locusts as pets for children to play with, and that when a family’s pet locust died, the children of the family would often affectionately deliver eulogies about their recently departed pet locust as part of their mourning process.

For some adults, a world where children eulogize their pet locust might appear very far off from the ‘reality’ of life as they know it, and when imagining young children grieving the loss of a locust, we might erroneously think that such children have yet to ‘get a grip’ on the real world.

However, I would like to posit that the inverse is true, that the cynicism of adulthood all too often ignores some of our most precious values in life, and that, as Sir Ken Robinson once put it, we have unfortunately created an education system and a culture that all too often ‘educates children out of their creative and imaginative capacities’.

Consider this: In a world where children care enough the death of a pet that they feel sufficiently moved to eulogize them, such children begin to learn the value of life and the tragic loss of death.

Unfortunately however, in our generation, many of the messages communicated to children in books and cartoons are not concerned with preciousness of life. On the contrary! Many are violent, while others simply communicate the idea that the most important goal in life is to win – no matter the cost.

Moreover, let us remember that in a world where children believe that their feelings will be sufficiently validated that they will be given the chance to eulogize their pet locust, they will learn the lesson that each person has a right to communicate how they feel – no matter if someone else doesn’t feel the same way.

Unfortunately, in our generation, we have developed the cynical and dangerous perspective that experiences are only valid if we see them as clearly as those who speak of them.

So when we read about how children would deliver eulogies in response to the death of their pet locust, we can smile, roll our eyes, and shake our heads while muttering to ourselves how children often don’t understand what life is really all about.

But then we should pause and think, and if we do so for long enough we may come to realise that it is the adult world that has, for the most part, lost its way.

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